The quote by Lao Tzu, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is often associated with making lifestyle changes. This connection is appropriate as it can be extremely difficult to change lifelong habits that may have contributed to obesity, ill health and disease risk. Tzu also instills a sense of hope that one single step is a beginning for change and that changing old habits is a journey and not something achievable overnight.
Weight loss is most likely the best lifestyle medicine for reducing heart disease risk because it can lead to a lower blood pressure and improved diagnostic test results related to heart disease.1 Weight loss is also important for reducing risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome because excess fat on the body can lead to insulin resistance and higher blood sugars. Since being overweight (over “fat”) plays a prominent role as a risk factor for the most common chronic diseases, it makes sense to begin the journey to better health by losing weight.
Begin your weight loss journey with one of these six steps.
- Set a realistic and achievable target for weight loss
- Start with a 7-10% weight loss off your current weight
- Aim for reaching this goal within the next 6 months
- Strive for a moderate calorie reduction, 300-500 calories less than you usually eat on most days
- Men aim for 1800-2200 calories/day
- Women aim for 1400-1600 calories/day
- Track your calories with an online food journal to help keep you on target
- Reduce or eliminate empty calories (calories without any nutritional benefit)
- Substitute calorie free drinks for sugar sweetened drinks
- Try healthy beverages including fruit flavored tea over ice, flavored seltzers, herb & fruit infused water (Add a sliced orange and a couple sprigs of mint to a pitcher of ice water. Wait an hour and enjoy!)
- Limit alcohol. Aim for a “1 and done” approach (12 oz beer, 1 ½ oz 80 proof distilled spirits, 5 oz wine equals one serving)
- Substitute regular beer with non-alcohol beer
- Make eating more vegetables your new healthy habit
- Seek out ways to include more vegetables every day; they will fill you up with few calories (exception = potatoes).
- Start by doubling your vegetable servings at meals.
- Plan to eat vegetables with every lunch and dinner (salads and vegetable soup count).
- If you miss having a vegetable with a meal, plan to have a vegetable snack.
- Change your eating style
- Slow it down. Thoroughly chew and taste your food for greater satisfaction.
- Be mindful of your eating speed, aim for your meals to last 20 minutes, you most likely will eat less.
- Spread out your daily calories by eating 3 moderate sized meals, about 450 calories each.
- Use 100-150 calorie snacks as needed to prevent getting over hungry at meals.
- Lower the carbohydrate load of your meals and snacks
- Choose whole grain products instead of refined white flour products (whole wheat bread or pasta instead of white bread or regular pasta).
- Keep portions small (1 ounce or 1 cup or less) when you eat high carbohydrate foods like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.
- Balance the carbohydrates in your meals with fiber (vegetables), protein (lean chicken or fish) and fat (healthy plant based sources).
Get started today with one of these six steps. This could be the beginning of your own journey to better health. You could lower your weight, get to green with your test results and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
- Wing, R et. al. Benefits of Modest Weight Loss in Improving Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2011;34:1481–1486.